Chapter 19 – International Organization
What is an International Organization?
o Cluster of ideas and coalitions of interest that exist at a transnational level and actively work
towards certain desired outcomes
o Public or private, state and non-state actors
o Enormous variety of forms
o International organizations operate in a sphere that transcends (beyond the
range or limit of) the state system. This does not mean they are more important
or powerful than states; certain realists would not see them that way.
o Like states, international organizations are tangible institutional products of
social and political forces.
o They represent clusters of ideas and coalitions of interest that exist at a
transnational level and actively work towards certain desired outcomes.
o Can be public or private, depending if state or non-state actors set them up.
o International Regime
o Term used to understand international cooperation
o Steven Krasner (1983): “implicit or explicit principles, norms, rules and decision-making
procedures around which actors’ expectations converge in a given area of international
o Example: the “international human rights regime”
o Not an organization itself, but often involves organizations
Originated as a way of understanding international cooperation
Stephen Krasner (1983) is credited with popularizing the term. He defines
regimes as “implicit or explicit principles, norms, rules and decision-
making procedures around which actors’ expectations converge in a
given area of international relations.”
Keohane (1993: 23) – much of world politics is characterized by highly
organized and systematic cooperation; yet there are few rules that are
hierarchically enforced. Rather, the rules are followed voluntarily and
cooperatively, becoming embedded in relations of reciprocity.
Example: International Human Rights Regime, encompassing many
organizations (the UN, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International) that
converge around a particular cluster of norms and principles. MNCs and TCO’s
o Multinational Corporations (MNCs): international organizations with an economic focus
o Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs)
o Often excluded in the discussions of international organizations, but they are becoming
more important on the world scene
o Associated with the globalization of both licit and illicit markets
o Increasingly seen as threatening to both national and international security.
TCO’s = Transnational Criminal Organizations
o Activities: drug and weapons trafficking, money laundering, people smuggling
which requires international policing cooperation.
o Increased interdependence between states, developments in international travel
and communications, and the globalization of international financial networks.
TCO’s are constantly seen as threats to both national and international security.
o Even though they are primarily economic actors, they may facilitate the business
of terror networks by providing money-laundering facilities, false documents,
and weapons or other material for terrorist purposes.
o There may be some growing convergence between terrorists and organizated
crime networks ,
NGO’S = Non-governmental Organizations
o Established by non-state or non-government actor whose primary business is not
strictly commercial (or illicit).
IGO’s = Intergovernmental Organizations
o Established by states through multilateral agreements
o Most important of all IGOs is the United Nations Organization. A “global
association of governments facilitating cooperation in international law, security,
economic development, and social equity”.
o League of Nations was the UN’s predecessor
o The League, which was meant to function as a collective security organization,
has sometimes been described as a failed experiment because it did not prevent
the Second World War. In 1939, The League also chose not to take action against
Japan for invading parts of China in 1931 and failed to prevent Italy from
invading Ethiopia in 1935. Member states were too afraid of another world war
to risk intervening.
o International organizations comes in such a variety of forms that they are
difficult to define, both with respect to their relationship with states and the
state system as well as in terms of their constitutional elements.
o IR scholars interested in the contributions that international organizations make
to the international system as a whole tend to focus on intergovernmental
organizations and non-government organizations o Although multinational corporations and terrorist and other criminal
organizations operating in the international sphere do not constitute
international organizations of a kind, they are usually treated separately.
Two Views of International Organizations: Cynical vs. Idealistic
1. Cynical view that emphasize the dramatic rhetoric and seeming inability to deal
with vital problems that are said to characterize international organizations, and
the UN in particular. This view is mirrored in some realist theories, international
organizations should be treated as insignificant actors on the international state.
2. Idealistic view – those who hold this view envisage global solutions to the
problems facing the world today, without recognition of the constraints imposed
by state sovereignty. Most of the naïve calls for world government are products
of this view
Neither view should be entirely accepted or entirely rejected, because international
organizations are neither irrelevant nor omnipotent in global politics. They play
important roles in international relations but their influence varies according to the
issue area and situation confronted.
The Emergence of International Organizations (IOs)
o Defensive leagues of 7 -5 century BCE in China
o Basic security agreements among city states in ancient Greece
o Six Nations agreements in North America
o Medieval Europe saw the Hanseatic League, Swiss confederation, United Provinces of thee
Netherlands, and the Catholic Church.
o Scale of early IOs was limited by transportation and communication technologies
o As new technologies developed, so too did the reach of the organizations
o State interests, particularly in areas of trade, were seen to move foreword in cooperation with
o Communications and transportation technologies formed the basis for other important IOs:
International Telegraph Union (now the International Telecommunications Union)
Universal Postal Union (1874)
Intethational Union of Railway Freight and Transportation (1890)
o In the late 19 century, IOs spread to a range of issue areas including
Industry and trade
The Concert of Europe
o Not an IO itself, but a precursor of important ones to follow
o Established a pattern of cooperation
o Encouraged the idea that representatives of states should gather not just at the end of a war, but
so as to prevent war
o 1815 Congress of Vienna also the first to take a stand on a broad humanitarian issue (anti-
slavery) KEY POIN